the reichl-waters method

I’m continuing my apprenticeship in the kitchen, and yesterday’s objective was the Roast Chicken. Now, it sounds simple; get a chicken, then roast it. I mean, the name is pretty much the recipe. My attempt yesterday involved a conflation of two sources; the Ruth Reichl directions provided in Garlic and Sapphires, and the Alice Waters approach described in The Art of Simple Food. They both strongly advised me to get a good chicken.  We had a Foster Farms bird, which probably wouldn’t exactly meet their standards. It doesn’t have the free-range cred.  On the outside of the package it said “no added hormones”.  Does that mean none added beyond what the chicken naturally would have, or does it mean they gave it a bunch of hormones, but then stopped and didn’t add any more? Now you’ve got me thinking. Beyond the bird itself, their techniques varied. It is Reichl’s view that chicken roasting is straightforward; pre-heat to 400, put some olive oil and seasoning on, and toss it in there. The steps in the Waters approach don’t include any advanced techniques, but there are a lot of steps.  Get that bird seasoned well ahead of time; 24 hours would be great. Let it sit around for an hour on the countertop (hey, bacteria! over here!) before it goes in the oven (agreement here: 400 degrees). After 20 minutes, rotate your bird. What? Yes, you will turn the chicken over 20 minutes into the roasting time, then spin it again after 20 minutes so it’s facing the  right way.  When the chicken is done, it should sit around again for 10 (Reichl) to 15 (Waters) minutes.  Who wants hot food anyway.

I wanted to try the pre-seasoning, but I only had about 5 hours to let the salt do its magic. Again, following the Waters direction, I had the chicken sitting on the counter slowly warming to room temperature for an hour, and I did the 20 minute flip rotation as well. From the Reichl program we included veggies in the roasting pan – too good an opportunity to miss that, and I’m a little surprised that they weren’t part of the Waters regime. Instead of the recommended Yukon Golds, we had brussel sprouts, mushrooms, onion, garlic. And another Reichl thing is to jab a fork in a lemon a bunch of times, and then put that inside the chicken. That I did.

So how did it come out? Very moist and evenly cooked.  But in some respects that seemed non-roasted to me. I guess I’m expecting to have some areas of the chicken roasted beyond recognition, and the hidden away parts just edging into FDA recommended internal temperatures. I didn’t mind all the advance work in the Waters scenario; the advance seasoning, the hanging around for an hour on the countertop, the spinning. But who knows if that does any good? I felt sort of like a witch doctor doing that. And if there’s a next time, I would definitely add the olive oil on the outside of the chicken as Reichl does, so it browns up real nice. The roasted veggies stole the show.

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